|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: ImageEpoch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
While the vast majority of battles in SoD are more or less repetitive grinding, fights pass very quickly due to the wonderfully streamlined battle mechanics. Within minutes, anyone will be able to romp their way through the encounters. While this doesn't make for much of a challenge, it does make you feel like your characters are indeed special. Additionally, fights in SoD are across both screens of the DS, so you'll want to have a good mix of aerial and ground attacks at your disposal, which does lead to a smidgen more variety. Utilizing both screens also means you'll be participating in giant boss battles. Graciously, the repetitive random battles are frequently punctuated by mini- and big boss battles, which further highlight the user-friendly battle system, but also require a lot more strategy to get through.
The graphics, for the most part, are good. The characters and enemies are interesting (though baddies are often simply differentiated by color only), and their attack and power animations are fluid. Environments are attractive, but there isn't entirely very much detail on hand; the pixel art is professional but by no means jaw-dropping. Moving the story along and adding depth is a load of anime-like cutscenes. It's easy to tell these were all really well drawn initially, but they look really bad on the DS's top-screen. Mobi Clip video codec was used to bring the cutscenes to the portable, and, as usual, the amount of pixelation makes it difficult to see what's going on in the cinematics.
Music and sounds in Sands of Destruction fare better than the visuals. The musical score, in particular, is quite good; it does a great job of bringing out the feel of a scene or a fight. The only very minor downside with the music is that, at default levels (which are adjustable in the options menu), they tend to fight with the frequent voice work for center stage. That's right; Sands of Destruction features an extensive amount of voice work. While none of it did a whole lot for me, I'm sure JRPG enthusiasts will enjoy the quantity as well as the quality of dialogue. After all, this game launched all the way back in September of 2008 in Japan, so they've had a lot of time to get the English version down. While the localization still isn't perfect (see any Mario & Luigi title for Nintendo handhelds), it is certainly much better than the Engrish company mantra plastered across developer ImageEpoch's main website, "Do Good Work, Do Good Live."
Certainly Sands of Destruction isn't one of the top JRPGs on Nintendo DS. However, it is a very competent one that portable RPG enthusiasts should definitely put on their list (or queue). The fast-paced battles, unique customization system, and interesting narrative go a long way toward surmounting, but don't entirely overcome, the glut of random battles.
CCC Editor / News Director